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The sleeping father : a novel
Matthew Sharpe
Adult Fiction SHARPE

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From Publishers' Weekly:

At once tragic and madcap, Sharpe's second novel offers an acidly funny portrait of a "diminished nuclear unit" coping with its patriarch's pharmacologically induced stroke. Divorced, depressed Bernard Schwartz is taking Prozac, but the accidental ingestion of another antidepressant lands him in a coma. His adolescent children, the conflicted and caustically witty Chris, and the serious, earnestly spiritual Cathy, must muddle through their father's helplessness in this character-driven tale. In one of the novel's best scenes, Chris, devastated but true to his trademark hostile sense of humor, adorns his unconscious father's face with drawn-on "make-up," which includes rosy cheeks and a Hitler mustache. It's moments like this-when fear induces laughter, and humor invites pathos-that make this tonally skillful novel dazzling but also difficult. Sharpe (Nothing Is Terrible; Stories from the Tube) shows little mercy for his characters; even as he lovingly catalogues their every idiosyncrasy, he dumps on them one humiliating circumstance after another. Upon waking from the coma, Bernard is physically and mentally compromised, and Chris, who's in charge of his rehabilitation, takes advantage of this role reversal with mixed results. He dresses his father in age-inappropriate clothing and openly mocks Bernard's attempts at readjustment-but he's dutiful, too, and Bernard takes solace in some of his unorthodox teaching exercises, like the naming of trees. The family dynamics culminate in unexpected and dramatic ways at the novel's end, a needed jolt after some mild plot stagnation sets in midway. Readers of alternative and literary fiction should appreciate Sharpe's clearly drawn characters and his thoughtful, if withering, examination of the contemporary hierarchies of family and authority. (Nov.) Forecast: An eight-city author tour and blurbs from George Saunders and Colm Toibin should help this small press standout get off the ground. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

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main characters Bernard Schwartz
Suffered a stroke caused by the accidental ingestion of two incompatable antidepressants.

Chris Schwartz
Age: Teenager
Bernard's son; cynical; in charge of his father's rehabilitation.

Cathy Schwartz
Age: Teenager
Bernard's daughter; serious; spiritual.

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